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Irrelevant Facebook Ads Are Wasting Marketers Money

Since we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, a great deal of us are finding ourselves with an abundance of free time. A note from Captain Obvious: some of us are spending a good chunk of this “found” time online and streaming. No surprise in my corner of the world, as I’m currently experiencing my third winter of the past 6 months.


One platform experiencing a surge in activity is Facebook. The New York Times said the coronavirus has revived Facebook as a news powerhouse.  The smart advertisers have immediately pivoted their advertising strategies by either implementing new Facebook ad strategies or have shifted their current marketing budgets to focus more on Facebook ads. But alas, there are several degrees of ‘smart’.

When digital advertising is what you do for a living, you find yourself “working” even when you’re just scrolling through Facebook looking for the next hilarious Tiger King meme. I’m pretty sure that’s what my colleagues were doing when they began noticing and taking screenshots of ads that didn’t seem relevant. I was asked to investigate.

On the surface, the ads my colleagues were seeing didn’t seem wildly irrelevant. In one example, my coworker was served an ad from a company that does home exteriors. Makes sense, as she was trying to procure a local home exteriors company as a client. Her Facebook behavior was indicating she was interested in home exteriors, so she was served an ad. Sounds legit, right? Not so fast. The company showing her the ad is located in the state of Wyoming. Their service area doesn’t include Michigan, so this particular ad isn’t relevant to her. 

What went wrong?

I launched my own investigation by looking for an ad on Facebook and I was ready for battle. I got extra coffee and everything. This took a hot 2 minutes. There it was – an ad for BottleKeeper. Curious why I’m being targeted for this product, I need to know more! The trick: click on those 3 little dots in the upper-right hand corner of the ad. A set of options will appear: Save the link, hide the ad, report the ad, turn off notifications, copy the link and — AHA! — “Why am I seeing this ad?” I clicked.

Look at this weirdo targeting! The company makes stainless steel can & bottle coolers. What does that have to do with people who are interested in Volkswagen? And why do they need to be over 30 to be interested in this product? That said, they are going for people whose primary location is the US because I bet they are an online-only business. I’m guessing in the previous home exteriors example, whomever set up the ad didn’t know enough about FB advertising to choose the correct geographical area.

Here is another Facebook ad for a nursing college. This pertains to me far less than a product to keep my beer (ahem, I mean soda) cold. Note the line: ‘You’re seeing this ad because your information matches…….advertising requests’. When you click ‘learn more’, you are taken to a Facebook page that breaks down the ways that you can be targeted. Pretty vague. Left to my own devices, I’m not sure what I have been doing on Facebook to indicate I want to be a nurse. Admirable and selfless profession, yet totally not my jam.

Here’s where it gets cool though – see the option to ‘Make changes to your ad preferences? This links to a page that (in my case) contains an extensive, staggering even, amount of information about what Facebook thinks I like, based on my activity both on and off Facebook. Some of this is news to me — apparently, I’m into the Halo series and country music. This information is what advertisers use to target you, so I encourage you to go through it and remove things that don’t pertain to you to refine the ads you see. You’re going to see ads, so you may as well make them good ones!


If you click on ‘Hide all ads from this advertiser’ it reflects on the actual ad campaign performance. There should absolutely be someone monitoring the campaign who will see that and be prompted to refine the targeting.

As a consumer, it’s a good idea to manage what you’re seeing on Facebook. As a business owner or marketer, it’s crucial to make sure that your Facebook ads are performing correctly and reaching the right people. Here at Federated Digital Solutions, our marketing professionals are passionate and knowledgeable experts at ads on Facebook. We monitor campaigns to make sure they’re reaching the most relevant audiences before a campaign launches and for the duration.

If you have any questions or need help with Facebook advertising or other digital marketing needs, contact us — we’re ready for action!


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Heather Riley

Written by Heather Riley

Heather Riley is Director of the Campaign Team for Federated Digital Solutions. She has been in the advertising industry for over 15 years and is fortunate enough to be able to leverage that experience into helping maximize the ROI for clients by implementing processes for campaign optimization and monitoring, as well as helping develop customized advertising strategies to help clients move forward in a way that aligns with their business goals.

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